desktop organizer?
January 11, 2006 8:34 PM   Subscribe

The desktop on my Mac is so cluttered that I can't even see the background, is there any software that can help me get organized?

Every so often I clean up the desktop, sort all of my files into various folders and delete the rest, but over time it all piles up again. Is there some kind of desktop organization program for Mac that can help me to sort all of my incoming files or to help me with the process of organizing a cluttered desktop?
posted by deafweatherman to Computers & Internet (23 answers total)
 
I keep things for which there's zero ambiguity or possible for multiple locations sorted - files specifically to do with a single (and only them) client or something like that, but more and more I'm putting everything else - and I mean everything - in one folder that's aliased to the desktop. Then I just use Spotlight to find things if the file name or date on the file doesn't get it for me first.

Spotlight is your friend.
posted by mikel at 9:00 PM on January 11, 2006


spotlight, labels, very strict folders & subfolders.
posted by luriete at 9:06 PM on January 11, 2006


I haven't tried it yet, but workstrip might help. (Just read about it, and remembered your question)
posted by atom128 at 9:11 PM on January 11, 2006


The best way out of this is to never save files to the desktop.
posted by cillit bang at 9:57 PM on January 11, 2006


The best way out of this is to have a folder called 'To File' on the desktop. When the clutter gets too much, dump everything in there and sort it out when you feel like it (once every six months or so). Sorting it out only takes a couple of hours.
posted by unSane at 10:01 PM on January 11, 2006


My method. Duplicate at your own risk.


1. click on terminal

2. from the command prompt, type the following:

cd desktop

mv * tempfolder

Then do what UnSane suggests and sort that folder. I usually erase .dmg and .sit files that I've already decompressed, etc. and move the .doc/.rtf/.txt into my documents folder. I suppose I could automate this process with a script and a chron job, but that would be too smart.
posted by mecran01 at 10:16 PM on January 11, 2006


The time-honoured, accepted way to do this is to make a folder called 'Stuff', and put everything in there.

When that gets too cluttered, make a new folder called 'More stuff'.
posted by chrismear at 10:24 PM on January 11, 2006


Ditto on the "Sort This Shit Later" folder.

Also, a trick I use is to a) set my desktop icons to "snap to grid" and b) make them really big - 100x100 pixels or greater. The bigger the icons, the less of them that fit on the screen, and I find I clean up the desktop more often because of it.
posted by Robot Johnny at 10:29 PM on January 11, 2006


I use the "To File" folder others have mentioned with an Automator workflow as its Folder Action.

Folder Actions are a pretty cool tool in OS X, and having Automator to put them together instead of working out the Applescript makes them useful for everybody. The long and short is, you write a workflow or script and "attach" it to a given folder. Every time a file lands in that folder, the Action runs.

My workflow sorts based on a few things:

1. Filename prefiix. I have three major work projects and one ongoing personal project. Each has a prefix. When a file goes in the folder, the workflow looks to see if its prefix matches one of those prefixes and moves it into the correct folder in my Documents hierarchy. So files with a name starting with "imp_" go in one folder, "men_" go in another, "enp_" go in another.

2. File type: Audo files go in a folder in "Music," video files go in "Movies," and RAW files from my camera go in "Pictures/RAW Files."

In a few cases, I have folder actions attached down further in the tree that do a little more sorting based on file type.

Anything that doesn't match a prefix or a file type just stays in the "To File" folder, and I deal with it by hand. In the mean time, it's out of the way and not cluttering anything up.

Happy to share specifics. My address is in my profile.
posted by mph at 10:45 PM on January 11, 2006


If you use Firefox, set everything to download to your Documents folder by default and then use Download Sort to preset certain filetypes to download into specific subfolders.
posted by junesix at 11:09 PM on January 11, 2006


Why not just file each file in it's place as you create it? I use the "Documents" folder. Within this folder, I have created subfolders as needed, with sub-subfolders if necessary.
Whenever I create a file, I save it to the correct location.

.dmg files get deleted immediately after use.

You can set the download folder to be anywhere, but I just download to the desktop and then act on the files immediately. Currently my desktop has 5 icons, including the disk icon. I never let more than one column accumulate.

If you file immediately, you don't need to spend "a couple of hours" later. You can also apply this prinicple to many other facets of life, larger and small. Incoming mail, paper at work and home are just a few.
posted by cahlers at 11:16 PM on January 11, 2006


From what I understand, you can't actually see what you've got so that you can file it....

File in Finder and open a new finder window
navigate to your user folder then desktop and click the view as list button. Click the top of the column that has date modified on it and you can then either work through your files from the most recent to the oldest and file them or vice versa and delete all the older stuff.

I've never tried the smart folders but they do sound handy, Thanks
posted by mule at 12:49 AM on January 12, 2006


Thanks mecran01 - that was a really good idea.
posted by Dag Maggot at 1:27 AM on January 12, 2006


Check out this Life Hacker Desktop Show and Tell Pool on Flickr. Nearly 400 people have posted screenshots of their desktop and made notes of tools they use to stay organized. It might give you some ideas.
posted by bwilms at 3:36 AM on January 12, 2006


You don't really need extra software, there's a rather easy way to clean the desktop with an Applescript - I use one customised from a script I found somewhere (cannot remember...)

Here it goes -- customise by replacing DISK with the name of your startup disk, and USER with your user name - also replace the subfolder names and paths accordingly, depending on where you want the stuff to end up (create extra folders beforehand if necessary):

tell application "Finder"
set folderToClean to desktop

-- move Bookmarks
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".webloc") to folder "Bookmarks" of desktop

-- move Text files
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".rtf") to folder "DISK:Users:USER:Documents:Misc"
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".textClipping") to folder "DISK:Users:USER:Documents:Misc"
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".txt") to folder "DISK:Users:USER:Documents:Misc"
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".pdf") to folder "DISK:Users:USER:Documents:Misc"
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".doc") to folder "DISK:Users:USER:Documents:Misc"

-- move Pics
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".jpg") to folder "DISK:Users:USER:Pictures:Newpics"
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".jpeg") to folder "DISK:Users:USER:Pictures:Newpics"
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".gif") to folder "DISK:Users:USER:Pictures:Newpics"
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".png") to folder "DISK:Users:USER:Pictures:Newpics"

-- move Movies
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".rm") to folder "DISK:Users:USER:Movies"
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".ram") to folder "DISK:Users:USER:Movies"
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".mov") to folder "DISK:Users:USER:Movies"
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".mpg") to folder "DISK:Users:USER:Movies"
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".avi") to folder "DISK:Users:USER:Movies"
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".wmv") to folder "DISK:Users:USER:Movies"

-- move Archives to Trash
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".gz") to trash
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".dmg") to trash
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".sit") to trash
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".zip") to trash
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".bin") to trash
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".tgz") to trash
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".tar") to trash
move (every file in folderToClean whose name ends with ".pkg") to trash

end tell



(You can also add more lines for other files based on their suffix, like mp3's and so on.)

Copy the text in a new window in Script Editor and save as script (default setting) - you can also save it in the Scripts folder in your user Library, then launch AppleScriptUtility and click the "Show Script Menu in menu bar", and you'll have it handy every time you want to use it.
posted by funambulist at 7:15 AM on January 12, 2006


Like everyone else has said, it's best to come up with a simple set of rules and stick to them. Here's what I've done to make things easier:

1. Downloads from my web browser or RSS client (NetNewsWire) go into a "Download" folder in my home directory. If you need to, make an alias to it on your desktop.

2. Trust OS X's default folders. Put personal documents in "Documents," video clips in "Movies," and so on. The exception is for music...

3. For all mp3/mp4/lossless files I download, I've chosen to have iTunes manage them rather than file them myself. I open downloaded mp3s once, then delete the original file after it's copied to my iTunes library. If you want, you can use the same strategy to have iPhoto (or another photo management product) manage any downloaded pictures in addition to personal photographs. I keep a separate "images" folder under "Pictures" for stuff I download.

3. I keep personal documents in "Documents" with a few different organization schemes (Work and Personal, or by topic). I've also started filing online receipts and such in there. If there's a "Print this page" after an online sale I'll Print to PDF and save a copy.

4. Possibly most important: Use QuickSilver or another application launcher/file manager program. I'm assuming you have lots of application icons on the desktop and not just downloads -- you might be able to ignore this part if I'm wrong. I still keep my most common applications in the dock, and have a link to the Applications folder at the bottom to quickly browse that directory, but for pure speed QuickSilver can't be beat. It also helps with file management.
posted by mikeh at 7:21 AM on January 12, 2006


You don't say if you're saving files that you create to the desktop. If so, that's a part of your problem. You need to come up with an organizational scheme for your files and live with it.

That leaves downloads. I like having a clean desktop (I aspire to 0 icons on it, a goal I rarely achieve), but having stuff on the desktop forces me to deal with it. I also have snap-to-grid on, which at least keeps each icon clearly visible. Typically the icons there are:
1. URLs for my to look at later
2. Files for me to read later (and in some cases URLs of longer articles)
3. Programs for me to try later.

If your downloads fall into obvious categories like this, you could just set up a folder for each on your desktop (or just have a "stuff" directory) and file them immediately on DL. Or you could just use the clutter as a motivator to deal with the stuff more expeditiously.
posted by adamrice at 7:39 AM on January 12, 2006


As others have said, just creating a folder and dumping your desktop files in it is the simpliest. However, you might like Macabinet which has a few nice additional features.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 8:42 AM on January 12, 2006


funambulist: Couldn't you replace the "DISK:Users:USER..." bits in your script with "~", as in "~/Pictures", "~/Movies"?
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:45 AM on January 12, 2006


Popular Ethics: ~ and / separators don't work for paths in Applescript, but you can also write paths like this: folder "Movies" of home. I'd forgot about that!
posted by funambulist at 10:00 AM on January 12, 2006


Just throw stuff in folders. When my desktop gets crowded, I make a folder called something like "desktop stuff" and throw everything in it. I may keep that on the desktop or I may move it to the top level of my hard drive. With Spotlight, you don't really need to know where stuff is.
posted by neuron at 8:32 PM on January 13, 2006


Pile *everything* into Documents. Use folksonomy tagging in the filenames -- they can be very long, it's not a problem for the computer these days -- and Spotlight to find them.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:13 PM on January 14, 2006


Is there something just like this for Windows? Like move all .mp3 files on every drive to one folder on one drive kinda thing?
posted by Devileyezz at 8:04 PM on April 11, 2006


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